Cancel the "Burn a Qur'an" Day!
When Irresponsibility Meets Irrationality
As the founder and director of Answering Islam I denounce and condemn the call to burning copies of the Qur’an that was issued by Pastor Terry Jones.
Although it is important to expose the falsehood of the Qur’an and the evil aspects of Islam – and Answering Islam has done that for over 15 years – this “burn the Qur’an” event is silly, irresponsible and un-Christian for many reasons.
During the communist era, the totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union, Romania, Vietnam and other communist countries destroyed hundreds of thousands of Bibles (burned, shredded and turned into toilet paper), but the destruction of Bibles never convinced a Christian (or non-Christian) that the Bible is wrong or evil. Physical destruction has only made the Bible more precious and many have risked their lives to get a Bible or to provide Bibles to the persecuted churches.
Ideas cannot be fought by burning the books that contain them. Ideas and ideologies have to be fought by putting sound arguments against them. They can only be overcome by exposing their errors and/or immorality.
By burning any book – whether it is the Bible, the Qur’an or the Communist Manifesto – the book burner exposes nothing of the nature of the book; he merely presents himself to the world as being a fanatical and uncultured barbarian.
Burning a Qur’an is silly, because it will not convince even one Muslim that the Qur'an is wrong. It will only increase their commitment and devotion to Islam.
That insight should be reason enough to admit this was a bad idea and to cancel the event.
Though burning the Qur’an will not bring any light, it will certainly produce a lot of heat.
My desire is that the Muslim world would recognize the silliness of this action and act in a mature way. Does Terry Jones really think that Islam can be defeated by burning a copy of the Qur’an? Laugh about him. Hold peaceful demonstrations. Make jokes about him. Hold him up to ridicule, but remain peaceful. Leave the judgment to God. As you are convinced that Allah is the Lord of the Universe, the All-powerful, and the ultimate judge, so be confident that he will judge rightly.
Imagine this: Terry Jones wants to expose the evil of Islam – and Muslims remain friendly and peaceful and let his stunt be an absolute failure. That would be stunning!
Sadly, one does not need to be a prophet to predict that there will be hundreds of thousands of Muslims all over the world, if not millions, who will not have this maturity but will instead go on a rampage and kill many innocent people in revenge for the lunacy of one man on the fringe of the American society.
There are reports that radical Muslims in Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and other countries are preparing to unleash their revenge on innocent local Christians. Their hatred of the Christians and other unbelievers was there long before, but this event is providing them with a religious pretext and “justification” to act out the hatred in their hearts by killing Christians and destroying their homes and their churches and feel that they are restoring the honour of Islam by doing so. Killing many innocent people because a silly individual – thousands of miles away – burned a book? This mentality is insane. This is irrational, but it is a sad and evil reality.
Five years ago, “Muhammad Cartoons” were published in a Danish newspaper which depicted Islam as violent. Instead of reflecting on the question why people would get such an impression and entering a civil debate about this issue, the Muslim world went on a rampage and by this confirmed the claim that Islam is indeed violent. Most probably, this sad story will now repeat itself.
While Westerners may think of these matters in the categories of right and wrong, the dynamic is different in many Islamic cultures, where it is an issue of honour, shame and power.
If Muslims are not able to prevent the burning of a copy of the Qur’an in America, they may feel exposed as powerless and thus feel “shamed”. Therefore they will try to make up for this humiliation by showing themselves powerful elsewhere and destroy and kill anything that looks "Christian" as revenge in order to re-establish their “honour of power”.
Although I cannot see how violence and murdering innocent people will establish the honour of Muslims or of Islam, some (many?) Muslims seem to operate by such a perverted kind of psychology.
Because these realities, burning a Qur’an is not only silly, it is utterly foolish. Unless a miracle occurs, this will inevitably cause the shedding of blood of many innocent people.
The blood will be on the hands of the Muslims and their leaders who are inciting them to this murderous action. “You made me do it” will not be an excuse. Every Muslim will decide for himself whether or not he attacks innocent people, and will be accountable for the blood he sheds. I have little hope that Islam will not show itself as evil again. However, it is foolish and irresponsible of Pastor Jones to do this, just like it is foolish and irresponsible to tease a poisonous rattle-snake or a wild bear while helpless children are standing near by and will be the likely victims of this action.
It is as if we are watching a competition in insanity. Do Muslims really want to win this one and show themselves as the most insane of all?
For the critics of Islam: One cannot fight irrationality with irresponsibility. Burning the Qur’an is like trying to fight fire by spraying gasoline on it. Cool it down. Use water not gas. There is no way around the effort of civilized intellectual discourse on the issues of disagreement. It needs careful study and analysis and clear thinking. Emotionalizing the debate won’t help anyone.
I call on Terry Jones to be a man, to show himself willing to learn and to do the right and honourable thing: Apologize for endangering many innocent people in this way and cancel the “Burn a Qur’an Day”.
Whatever Mr. Jones decides to do, I call on Muslim leaders to dismiss his current plan as an act of silliness which cannot threaten Islam and not to enter into a competition of insanity. Refuse to be offended. You have the opportunity to show that Islam is better than its reputation – or else you could confirm the worst expectations of a watching world. Know that killing innocent people will dishonour Islam far more than burning a copy of the Qur’an ever could. Surely you are aware of the widespread and near unanimous opposition to this plan by Christians as well as secular people? Don’t credit Terry Jones with an importance he does not have. He represents neither Christianity nor America nor “the West”.
Since Muslims constantly talk about Islam being a religion of justice and how it stands against all injustice, how will anyone believe you if not only a few crazies but large numbers of Muslims attack innocent people in revenge for what somebody else has done? Is that the justice of Islam? This will make a mockery of your message and show Islam to be a religion of violent injustice.
Why “Burn a Qur’an Day” is unbiblical and thus un-Christian
Many prominent Christians have already condemned this plan to burn copies of the Qur’an, and have done so clearly and more eloquently than I ever could. Just a few links to some of these responses:
- A Bad Idea -- International Burn a Koran Day
- Seven Questions for the Pastor Who Wants to Burn Copies of the Koran on 9/11
- National Association of Evangelicals Press Release
- Evangelical leaders try to reach out to the pastor who plans to burn the Koran
- Why Christians Shouldn’t Burn the Qur’an
- International Burn a Koran Day - Why it was a bad idea
Let me add only a couple of thoughts.
First, there is not one command or call from Jesus or His apostles to destroy pagan temples, religious symbols or religious books. The example of Jesus and the apostles speaks consistently against it. Second, Jesus and the early church regularly encountered violent opposition from both Jews and pagans both before and during the time when the New Testament books were written. They have to be read against the background of persecution. But what do they say?
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)
And many more similar passages could be added. The New Testament is very consistent in its message. It contains clear words of critique and judgment against idolatry and immorality, but never a call to violence against unbelievers or their sacred buildings or symbols or books.
Two passages may be particularly relevant in this context:
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
Pastor Jones, can you really say in good conscience that your plan is in obedience to the Word of God and reflecting the character of Christ?
Muslims, are you sure that responding with violence is a better way than the teaching displayed above?
May the Lord have mercy on us all,
Statements by other strong critics of Islam:
Further reflections of the issue that provide interesting perspectives:
P.S. While I am in the process of putting the final formatting touches on this plea, and uploading the article to the website, I just hear the news that Pastor Jones called off the Qur'an burning. Praise be to God who moves hearts that seemed so hardened and unreachable, and hears the prayers of his children and changed this for good. Nevertheless, there were people in favor of such an event, and it is still relevant to publicly state why such actions are wrong, both now and in the future.
This decision is also to the credit of Terry Jones. It certainly took courage to retract and cancel, perhaps more than to stubbornly go ahead.
P.P.S. Update [10 September] The situation is becoming ever more muddled. Apparently Terry Jones became the victim of Muslim Taqiyya (deception) and is now reconsidering the cancellation (*). My verdict remains: Christians should do what is right, independently of the honesty of the other side, and burning copies of the Qur'an remains wrong for the reasons outlined above.